Letters to the Editor are an often-overlooked, powerfully effective advocacy strategy. To keep a pulse on what their constituents want, your elected officials pay close attention to your local papers – especially when you mention their names and set off their Google alerts.
But it can be challenging to start while you’re staring at that blank page. We want to make it easy. Here are some tips to writing a strong Letter to the Editor, and remember to refer to our Medical Aid in Dying Fact Sheet for any information you might want to highlight.
- Visit the news organization’s website. Review their submission guidelines for letters to the editor and be sure to follow them.
- If possible, write in response to a recent article. News publications are more likely to publish your letter if it references something they’ve recently written, so the best way to write a strong letter is to keep a close eye on local news sources, and respond whenever they reference anything related to medical aid in dying.
- Send your letter as soon as possible. If you are responding to a published article, ideally submit your letter within 48 hours of the original publication or within one week of an event that you attended, such as a hearing or community event.
- Keep your letter concise. Make one to three points in approximately 200 – 300 words or less (again, follow the guidelines on the news organization’s website for writing letters to the editor). Guest columns and featured op-ed pieces usually have guidelines that allow for longer letters.
- Make it personal. We love to think we make decisions rationally — based on facts and figures — but we don’t. Science shows human beings are driven by emotions, and storytelling is hard-wired into our brains. It’s what we remember best, and what we find most compelling. Don’t just list the data behind medical aid in dying, tell your story and share what drew you to this movement.
- Title your letter. If you submit a letter without a title, it will be titled for you by someone else.
- Close with a thought for readers to remember. It can be a compelling fact, a personal statement that’s relevant to your audience or a call to action.
- Mention Compassion & Choices. This helps increase awareness of our work and mission. Feel free to direct the reader to CompassionAndChoices.org for more information.
- Mention your elected officials. This will set off their Google alerts, and let them know you’re paying attention to their actions on the issue. Not only that, it’ll alert your fellow constituents to follow how they act in the future as well.
If and when your letter is published, share it! Send a link to your legislators’ offices to make sure they don’t miss it. Then, post a link to your letter on Facebook and/or Tweet it out to your followers. The more eyes it gets, the more likely the paper will be to publish any additional letters you send in the future.